Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Druid Challenge - Day 2 - Watlington to Wantage

Day 1 is here.

I didn't sleep too well because of the rain and the wind in the night and my uncomfortable bed (sleeping bag on a gym mat), but I was feeling positive this morning.  I knew it would be tough day but it had to be done.  My legs felt OK, a little sore but everyone else was in the same boat, which helped.  It was looking like a rain free day and a little warmer than yesterday.  My body temperature was a little up and this didn't help me to sleep.  I find this quite common after a marathon.  I wasn't thinking about the final day at all this morning, just getting through today, but bearing in mind to be careful not to overdo it anywhere to ensure I would recover sufficiently overnight.

There was a good atmosphere at dinner last night, everyone sharing their running stories.  I feel like a complete amateur, "only" running the Ridgeway in three days instead of one and "only" running 28 miles per day!  Nothing I heard about the MDS remotely made me want to take part, not least the bit about you getting pulled from the race after you have had three IV drips for rehydration!  A couple of pints in the Chequers next door helped me relax and not worry about today's run.

I set off from Watlington in the middle of the three groups this morning, in the 8:00am start.  I could feel the fatigue in my legs from the beginning, but I set off near the front of around sixty runners, without about a dozen ahead of me.  A great feeling to be up near the front - I'm not used to that!  I walked the hills and ran the rest.  The first seven miles from Watlington to Grim's Ditch was the most picturesque, despite the continuing fog.  There were a couple of short, tough climbs and a mile downhill across a slippery, ploughed field, with the ridges at exactly the wrong distance apart for my stride.

After a quick refreshment at checkpoint one, it was into Grim's Ditch, for three miles, slightly downhill in a straight line under the trees.  The sun was threatening to show itself here and the running was some of the most pleasant of the whole weekend.  After that, there was a boring, tough stretch alongside the Thames between Wallingford and Goring.  Flat, muddy grass for mile after mile with lots of gates and damp fog.  I chatted to a lady who was having a tough time here as far as checkpoint two, but then pushed on, on my own, crossing the river between Goring and Streatley, then away from the town for a long, tough uphill, walking.  I tried to run a few steps every couple of minutes to ensure that my running muscles wouldn't seize up.  Getting started again can be really hard after walking for even a few minutes.

I badly needed a drink on arrival at checkpoint 3 and pushed on for the final 6km towards the finish.  I had to force myself to carry on running slowly rather than walking at this point.  I caught up with Rory Coleman who had been in sight for miles, just as he hit 26.2 miles, completing his 700th marathon!  A couple of miles back, I had been expecting to finish in around 5:05 but realised I could just hit the five hour mark so I accelerated up the hill for the last couple of minutes to the finish, clocking just under five hours.  This probably wasn't sensible given I had to do it all again the next day.

I felt cold as soon as I stopped, but was soon on a minibus to Wantage sports centre, our second overnight base.  I set up bed, same format as the previous night and dozed for a couple of hours.  That evening I was feeling worried about the next day.  I knew completing the course wouldn't be an issue but couldn't see how I would be able to run it and was thinking seven hours would be a realistic time.  I thought ay sort of reasonable time would be nigh on impossible.  I had a bit of chafing, my calves, quads and knees were sore and my ankles had been hurting a little in the last few miles.  The atmosphere was good again and I shared lots of running stories.  One man had never run a marathon before.  The only let down was dinner which was a tiny portion of shepherds pie and carrots.  Many of us followed that with a visit to the chip shop.

Day 2 stats: 4:59:50, officially 27 miles, my GPS said 43.7km and I was about 42nd out of 147 running all three days.  And that was marathon number 27 for me.